LOWA 70th Annual Conference – Lake Verret Birds

As I said in the previous post,to be continued“, and now I’m keeping my promise.  Plus, those of you who have been here awhile know that I’m a bird nerd and no trip is complete without a post about the birds I saw. 

lake-verret-sunriseThat Friday morning fishing trip started out with a beautiful sunrise, just beyond the cypress trees. Corey Wheat, my bass fishing guide for the morning, turned out to be quite an eco-tour guide in his own right.  We talked about how folks who don’t have the good fortune to live in such wonderful places don’t get to see the beauty of the water, the trees, the plants, and the birds. He impressed upon me how, as avid bass anglers, he and his team always take time to appreciate the things Mother Nature provides while they are out and about fishing. Well, I don’t have to tell you know how much that impressed me.

As we trolled the banks of Lake Verret in search of bass, we talked about different things we see on a regular basis while fishing.  We also talked about how he, too, loves to fish speckled trout in Lake Decade in the winter months.  There’s no doubt, that at some point, we crossed paths while fishing trout on that lake over the past few years, which makes me again realize what a small fishing world it is down here.

osprey.parentBefore long, we fished away from the landing and the dense clump of fishing camps toward a few more solitary houseboats, nestled among the cypress trees.  As we trolled among the cypress knees, Corey pointed out a single adult osprey perched on a nearby branch.  

From somewhere also nearby came the excited calls of other osprey.  The adult osprey continued to sit, still as a statue, not making a sound.  We looked around for the source of the desperate-sounding osprey calls and in short time located the source.

osprey-siblingsIt also didn’t take us long to assess the situation. Close by, a large nest topped a cypress tree. There fledgling osprey sat atop the nest, obviously disturbed that their parent was ignoring them. Corey and I surmised what was going on and started a running dialog among the siblings as we observed their behavior.

Parent Osprey’s stern silence sent the message loud and clear, “NO!  I’m not feeding you breakfast.  Fly out and get your own!”

osprey-siblingsWe watched as Sibling No. 1 and No. 2 left the nest landing on cypress branches, not far from the parent.  But they continued to call out to their parent, as though begging for breakfast. Refusing to be persuaded, Parent Osprey sat stock still, barely blinking an eye.

No. 1 and No. 2 sat in silence, as though waiting for instructions from their parent. However, no instruction came.  Parent Osprey continued to ignore her hungry offspring.

osprey-on-nestMeanwhile, Sibling No. 3 continued to screech, flitting from one side of the nest to the other.  The scene turned from one of our waiting for them to catch their own breakfast to seeing if this last fledgling would ever take flight.  We trolled, fished, and watched, trolled, fished,  and watched. 

We caught a couple more bass, and just as we trolled near a power line which led to a houseboat, Corey said, “Look.  The last osprey finally left the nest, and it’s sitting on that power line.  It’s looking into the water like it’s about to catch a fish.”   Sure enough, the young osprey sat on the wire, gazing down into the water, then it looked at us, moving its head from side to side as though trying to get our attention.  I imagined it saying, “Hey you guys!  How about sharing your fish with me?”  Nah, I don’t think so!  Mama said to go get your own.

Shortly thereafter, a green heron joined Sibling No. 3 on the wire, and they hung out, staring down at the water together, until we trolled right under them, scaring away both of them. Forgetting about the hungry birds, we turned our focus back to some serious fishing along the edges of the swamp.

cypress-sceneVibrant in varying shades of green, the bald cypress surrounding Lake Verret speak to a simpler time–a time of the pat-swoosh of a pirogue paddle, of trot lines laden with catfish, of the swish of a gator sliding into the water, and the splash of a big bull frog hopping off a lily pad.

One could easily get lost in the swamp, mentally and emotionally, as well as spiritually.  The silver Spanish moss evokes a hush of tranquility and a palpable reverence.  We fished among these cypress sentinels, not speaking, worshiping the silence and grateful for the sanctuary.  Speech wasn’t necessary, because in its silence, the swamp spoke volumes to our souls. This is a place where nothing else matters, and troubles are vanquished.

Neither annoyed by or afraid of our presence, yet another green heron joined us in our quest for bass.  Going to and fro, he flew from the cypress knees to the bankgreen-heron-taking-bait in search of minnows in the shallow water.  

We continued to cast toward the bank, fishing in symbiosis with Green Heron, until he decided that the plastic frog on the end of Corey’s line looked much more appetizing than a minnow. Before Corey could reel back in, Green Heron swooped down and grabbed the artificial frog in its beak.  It happened very quickly, and I feared the poor bird to be hooked in the beak.

Much to my relief, the bait was much bigger than the bird’s beak, and Corey deftly jerked the frog from Green Heron’s mouth, no harm done.  This could’ve gone badly, because even though wading birds seem so docile, they use their beaks as weapons, and retrieving a hook from Green Heron’s beak would’ve been a very low point to another otherwise delightful fishing trip.  

Corey motored us back across the lake with the promise of showing me bald eagles.  Where I live, only about 40 miles southeast of Lake Verret, the eagles migrate away to the north in May.  I shared that fact with him, secretly doubting his accuracy in thinking he could show me eagles on this lake in August.  But I have to hand it to him.  I was wrong, and he was right!  We saw several perched high in the tops of the cypress trees.  Later, during a quick break at a quaint place on the water called Gros’ Marina, he pointed out eagles soaring above us, riding the thermals. I thanked him for the cold drink and the newly-found knowledge that bald eagles, do indeed inhabit Lake Verret year-round.  

cormorantsWhen we first left the landing that morning, I honestly didn’t think I would be able to fish until our prearranged time of noon to meet back at the landing. But before we knew it, it was time to return to the dock.  Along the way, Corey wanted to hit a few more spots that historically held larger bass, around the three-pound mark. Try as we may, the bass didn’t cooperate, and then we tried one last spot just a stone’s throw from the landing.

green-heronThe spot appeared to be a very small island of sorts, covered in bushes and trumpet creeper.  I quickly spotted an immature green heron among the branches and pulled out my camera, hoping for some good closeups while Corey fished around the perimeter.  Because of the thick foliage, my camera couldn’t focus in clearly on the little heron.  Then Corey pointed out another green heron, and another, and another.

Abandoning his fishing pole, he trolled the boat around and around the island, counting all the green herons.  We counted over a dozen birds and spotted three nests.  It hit us both at the same time:  “This is a green heron rookery!”green-heron-nest

We watched the young clumsy herons trying to hide from us among the dense foliage, their awkward movements amusing us both. Corey noted aloud that during all the times he had passed this island to go fishing and had actually fished around it, he had never seen the herons before. 

I truly think he was delighted at this discovery. I know I was. green-heron-island

Before departing the island, we decreed that this would henceforth be called “Green Heron Island”.  He vowed that he would pay closer attention to this little island from now on.  

Fate guided me this day by pairing me with this talented fishing guide, also a nature lover.  A different guide may not have been as patient with my constant swapping of rod and reel for camera and taking up valuable fishing time to snap photos.  But as Fate would have it, Corey and I made a good team, and before parting ways, we made a plan to fish together this winter in my lake of choice, giving me the opportunity to share the beauty of my fishing grounds with him.  I’m looking forward to it.


“to be continued . . . . again”

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  1. What a wonderful post. I just saw my first osprey last week. They’re gone from here in the spring and summer — it’s pretty clear what they’ve been up to!

    The green herons have been thick in my neighborhood. I’ve never seen so many. They’re such chatterers, and apparently pretty territorial. Woe to the heron who lands on another heron’s mooring line!

    I’d not looked closely at a map, but I see that Lake Verret’s close by Pierre Part, where some traditional pirogue makers still ply their trade. What an interesting pair of destinations that could make.

    1. Those green herons are most certainly noisy, but it’s odd that I’ve only ever seen one at a time up in my swamp, and I like to think it’s the same resident green heron each time. He’s illusive and very, very shy. The ones at Lake Verret were nothing like that. They were almost audacious!! Lake Verret is beautiful, and yes, it can be entered from Napoleonville side, Pierre Part up in the NW, and Stevensville on the sort of SW end of the Lake, although not directly on the lake. You’re right. Would make an interesting pair of destinations.

    1. Hey Ashley! Haven’t heard from you in a while, so it’s great to see you here! Glad you like the pics! I’ll do my best to keep them coming!

  2. Very interesting chat with the osprey family! Lovely area and wonderful pictures. Sounds like y’all had a grand time on the water. As always, I will be back for the next installment.

    1. Observing their behavior intrigues me. Of course birds communicate, and I was eavesdropping on this family feud between mother and children about not being lazy and getting their own breakfast. I love all the wading birds and their behaviors. I know, you can tell! It is a lovely area, Cuz.

  3. Your description of the Cypress trees with Spanish Moss hanging made me want to cry! I would fish with my father & grandfather in LA. I remember the beautiful Cypress trees laced with Spanish Moss! Truly a feeling of entering an outdoor cathedral! Thank you for your blog! Keeps me closer to the LA that I miss so much!!

    1. Hi Susan, so great to have a comment from you. Unless you comment, I don’t have any way of knowing who is reading these posts! Of course, I get stats of numbers of visits, but I don’t know who I’m reaching! All that to say, again, I’m glad to touch the heart of someone like you who has fond memories of being in La. Cypress swamps inspire me like nothing else, and I can honestly say that if I have to leave my beloved Dularge because of hurricanes and high water, I’d love to relocate to this area. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Happy to keep you closer to home! BW

  4. The Lake Verret area is absolutely beautiful. I don’t ever remember seeing all the different species of birds. However, I wasn’t looking for them. When I go back I’ll be looking closer. I generally checked the cypress trees only to make sure there were no snakes to fall in the boat!
    Loved the photos.

      1. We haven’t been in a very long time. After Hurricane Andrew the area was hit extremely hard with fish kills. It took years to make a comeback. For too many years, There was a 14″ size limit on bass. I can’t tell you how many 13″1/2″ fish we caught. Unlike Corey, we’re not catch and release people. We’re catch and eat. That’s when we started saltwater fishing. Now…we’re fishing the pond at our camp.

        1. Well, at least you’re still fishing somewhere! And you know now they’ve lifted the size limit on basin bass. I could’ve kept those bass if I had had a place to clean them and keep them back at the hotel. Not too convenient, since I didn’t even think to bring my knife and an ice chest!

  5. Beautiful writing and picture as always. The one of the cypress is STUNNING. Your words create a movie in my mind and think how blessed you are to live in a place of such wonder. Love hearing of your adventures <3

    1. You know what? I am blessed; however, the Mauvais Bois where you and I go is different from the Lake Verret Swamp. I guess there’s just so much more of it around that lake. I was amazed at the bird life around the lake, even though I’ve done tours by boat on that lake multiple times. I just never got to see so much. The yellow and blue flags (irises) are so pretty among those trees in March. I hope to go see them next year.

  6. Great photos and thanks for sharing the adventure with all o’ us.
    Interesting that the birds o’ prey are mentioned – a mate o’ ours who owns several acres o’ Grape vines has recently noticed a visitor in his field. A large Hawk watches as he runs the tractor (sadly, cutting out many dead vines), waiting to swoop down on any little, running morsels. If he stops the tractor, the Hawk flies off to a perch 2 rows away, once it starts again, the Hawk is perched only 1 row behind him!

    1. Ah, yes, doing his job to rid the vineyard of rodents!!! Handy birds, those hawks! Again, I’m so intrigued by our bird behaviors!

  7. Beautifully written description of your day in a setting that brings peace to those fortunate enough to share it. My memories of life growing up on the Sabine River came rushing back as an echo to those memories you made on that trip.
    I am new to your site and found it by using your fig preserves recipe. Delving a bit deeper I have discovered a writer and naturalist with many talents. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading and will share the stories with my wife who is an Alaska girl. Thanks! And by the way the figs turned out great. I’m going to use them in a fig cake recipe handed down from the 1840’s.

    1. Welcome to the bayou, Bob, and I have to say your comment made my evening! I’ve accomplished one of my goals if something you read here brings back good memories, which makes me quite fulfilled in writing this blog. Good news about the fig recipe!!! And you must come back (or contact me using one of the boxes) and share that 1840’s recipe with us and let us know how you liked it, of course. Say hi to wife for me, and tell her that fishing in Alaska is on my “Life List” (because I don’t have a Bucket List!!!) and maybe she can recommend a nice fishing community. BW